Health Matters – July 2022

Four Issues in this month’s Health Matters

  • Hot Nights
  • Hot Days
  • Covid Update
  • NHS – Not Coping with Covid

1, Hot Nights – we may have had hot days over the last 48 hours, but there’s been much less said about hot nights! They’re breaking  records too. And last night was simply sweltering with no cooling breeze! Before Monday, our hottest recorded minimum night temperature was 23.9; on Monday night the new record was 25.8 – almost 2 degrees above our previous record. And although we had that drop of rain last night, it was still remarkably hot! Who was the nerd that decided that bedrooms should be on the upper floor of a house – did they forget that heat rises!

So what is happening – actually, you can trust your senses as our nights really are getting hotter! Records show that night-time temperatures are actually rising at a faster rate than daytime temperatures. Why is this?

Primarily it’s because concrete and asphalt absorb and release daytime heat more slowly overnight compared with outlying rural areas, resulting in even higher night-time temperatures for city dwellers. This is known as the urban heat island effect. The really bad news about this is that, although we’ve seen a massive drop in temperatures today, we’re not likely to see that carried through to tonight! Because buildings retain their heat longer – and so, we’re simply going to need to get used to hot nights and the sleep loss that they cause!  

2. Hot Days – Although the day time temperatures are cooler than yesterday, there’s a simple fact that the last two days demonstrated to us. Remember our body temperature should be around 37 degrees; so when the air outside is hotter than that, we really do need to be careful. The previous peak was 38.7, so that was just slightly above our 37 degrees. But sustained temperatures at over 40 (that’s 104 in old money!) really do mean that our bodies react differently!

The body’s natural reaction to heat is to cool down by generating sweat; as the body gets hotter, your sweat glands (you have between 2 and 4 million of them!) open up. This causes your heart to work harder to push your blood round your body so that it can release heat through the glands. This in turn releases heat from your body and helps it to cool; but of course, if the air is fairly humid and not “dry heat” like you experience on a Mediterranean Holiday, the evaporation process slows down and the heat exchange is much less effective!

We’ll need to get used to this as we’re likely to get more hot spells at some point in August; so remember that medicines can affect your reaction to heat – diuretics increase the probability of de-hydration; antihypertensives (to reduce blood pressure) can lead to low blood pressure because the heart is working so hard; and drugs for Parkinsons and epilepsy reduce the body’s ability to sweat. Finally Some drugs will work differently depending on the body temperature and how dehydrated the person is, such as lithium, a very potent and widely used mood-stabiliser.

3. Covid Update – If you remember last month I reported  that Covid cases had just dropped like a stone – from the APR peak of 2,348 per 100,000 to just 279! Since our last Health Matters they’ve been going up fast – and they peaked on Saturday (JUL 15) at 2,829 (20% above our previous peak). Fortunately they’ve started coming down again, and as at this morning (Wednesday the 20th July) they’re sitting at 2,543! We are still the highest in Hertfordshire! For example Welwyn/Hatfield are running 27% lower than us! Jersey Farm is our highest area with just under 3,000!

And as you’d expect, the numbers in hospital are up on last month’s figure too …. In the Lister they’re up from 34 to 97, and in Watford from 28 to 109! They haven’t been that high since April and they’re still on an upward trajectory.

And finally, there will be a new booster programme in the Autumn for everyone over 50 – so we’ll be getting both the Covid Booster and also the flu vaccine, probably at the same time! The vaccination programme should start in September.

4. Is the NHS Coping? Remember how, at the beginning of the pandemic we stood on our doorsteps and applauded the NHS; that was just over 50 months ago and a report just published has highlighted that the NHS isn’t “living with Covid – it’s dying from it”!

So let’s unpick this and see what is happening. The big issue is that new peak we were talking about just now; the consequence is

  • There are more people seeking treatment in Primary Care and in our Hospitals;
  • Thehigh rates of infection mean more NHS staff are off work;
  • The incidence of Long Covid is growing
  • The record waiting lists in elective care, cancer diagnosis and treatment, and mental health are still growing. And finally
  • Staff are exhausted!

It won’t fix the problem – but it really is time to go back to “Hands, Face, and Space”

Alan Bellinger
20h July 2022

Alan Bellinger Written by:

Alan is a Trustee of Healthwatch Hertfordshire and very well engaged with all things related to Health & Social Care within the Community. After retirement from a successful career in the private sector (working in both training and Information Technology), Alan wanted to get involved in supporting local health issues and has an excellent understanding of what it takes to ensure a great patient experience, Alan has lived in St Albans for well over 65 years; he is a widower with two children and he especially enjoys the company of his five grandchildren – four of whom live in the local area.

One Comment

Comments are closed.